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Is Michael Vick in talks to be PETA's spokesman? The group says no

May 1, 2009 | 11:10 pm

Michael Vick Are they or aren't they?  First Advertising Age reported earlier today that disgraced NFL star Michael Vick was in talks to be a spokesman for PETA when he gets out of prison:

According to three people with knowledge of the matter, the proposed endorsement is part of a comprehensive PR scheme aimed at rehabilitating the quarterback's image and gaining him readmission to the league that banned him from playing.

"I'm familiar with [the plan]," said Dan Shannon, director of youth outreach and campaigns for PETA. "We have been in discussions with Michael Vick, with his management team, about the possibility of him putting out a public-service announcement with PETA when he's out of jail. We want him to discourage people from taking part in dog-fighting. I can do it until I'm blue in the face and it might not convince anybody. Michael Vick sure can. He can say, 'Look, I did it, I was wrong, and it ruined my career.' "

But in short order, PETA had released a statement denying the claim.  What gives?

"Now that he's about to get out of jail, it looks like Michael Vick is trying to revamp his image, according to Advertising Age," writes PETA blogger Shawna Flavell.  "But it won't be with any help from us."

The confusion apparently stems from talks PETA had with Vick's representatives last year, exploring the possibility of his participating in a series of public service announcements denouncing his former hobby, dogfighting. 

That offer was subsequently withdrawn in December, after the group received a U.S. Department of Agriculture report offering details of the dogfighting operation that landed Vick a nearly two-year jail sentence. Shannon said in a statement that any deal was off when the group discovered, as a result of the report, that Vick had "enjoyed placing family pets in the ring with fighting pit bulls and that he laughed as dogs ripped each other apart." 

PETA later called on the former quarterback to undergo a brain scan to look for any "evidence of clinical psychopathy or anti-social personality disorder."  (As one might imagine, Vick hasn't expressed any interest in such a test.)

Advertising Age has since published a follow-up story, in which Shannon responds to the confusion.  "In retrospect, I feel like I didn't convey the proper tense of all of this," he says.  "It was back in December of last year when we called on him to submit for this psychological evaluation, when we put out the ultimatum, or we're not interested in moving forward. It didn't happen, and we took that to mean that the talks were kind of dead in the water...What we don't believe at this point is that there is a contrite, remorseful Michael Vick. At this point, it looks like there's zero chance."

Whew!  What a difference a news cycle makes!

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

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